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Browsing Tag

Growth

Before the Butterfly, the Dark

This is the first year I can remember, ever, when I did not feel angst about the short days, the early darkness. This was the first winter solstice when I wished for more night, when I didn’t want to hurry up the lengthening of the daylight.

I felt deeply calm before the turning point, and now I feel how much is coming and will potentially move through me– career and curiosity, love and friendship– I feel all the waiting, all the expanding energy here in the underground seed of myself, and there’s an itchy longing to jump ahead to when I have cracked open, to skip the scary splitting open part and go to when I know exactly what kind of plant I am, what blossoms I have, what color, what medicinal properties, what qualities, what timing.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt this kind of swelling, this fear of transformative internal pressure: maybe not since I gave birth almost twelve years ago– and before that it might have been another ten years back when I was graduating from high school and stepping out into the world, trying to make the Right Choices about who I was and wanted to be.

I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half dismantling, extricating, sifting, asking myself what is wheat and what is chaff (even if– especially if– I used to call them by the opposite names), first with the pandemic’s invitation to drop my artistic and entrepreneurial identities, and then my habits of partnership, marriage, and home.

For months, I skated, as on new ice, flying fast and trusting instinct and the laws of physics, not dwelling on the idea of how slim the line was between myself and a cold plunge, always moving forward, in spite of or spurred by the crack and boom of the lake under me– and feeling a lot of joy as I did so, as well as wonder and grief and relief and awe.

In the last year I have felt myself holding old and new habits in my palms and weighing each one, often a little stunned that there’s a choice to be made, that I can and must set some down without knowing what will form their places, or what to do with my empty hands in the meantime.

And now it’s a new year, a new winter! And my sweet little butterfly heart is worrying about emerging– of course she is! Because, yes, this is a tipping point, an axis, a landmark. Yes, the days will grow lighter for longer and we will lean into the sun…

And it is still December.

Just as I didn’t tesseract through the last twelve months or take some Candy Land shortcut on the way here, I won’t be transported to a future I don’t feel ready for yet.

This tension feels so reminiscent of how I feared all the coming changes when my son was a baby– crawling, walking, baby proofing, solid foods– and then learned, over and over, that nothing happened instantly. There was always time, it was always subtle before it was sudden. It was a constant transformation, not an instantaneous one.

I’m still underground held in the frost, still contained in the chrysalis, nearly all of myself dissolved to goop, returned to pure energy and potential. It is not time to bloom. It is not time to fly. No one but me is asking me to come out now, shiny and sure of what I am, ASAP.

Maybe the last– or at least the next– thing to dissolve into this primordial ooze of (un)becoming is the fear that It Might Hurt, that I Should Know How to Fix Every Future Problem, Now.

As that anxiety is swallowed up by the magic of Not Knowing, I can turn my awareness back to noticing the gradual, almost imperceptible expansion of light over the landscape, like sun against closed eyelids. I can feel the subtle changes and stop fearing the sudden, because I am present for each shifting moment.

I can be curious, and I can trust that when the time comes to emerge, to reveal myself to myself and others, it will be the easiest thing in the world, the obvious next step that requires no “knowing” beyond feeling. And just as the dawn reaches to knock at my door, at the too-small husk, the now-paper-thin skin that barely contains me, whoever I am — whoever I have always been– will open everything and step forward, slip out with a sigh of contentment, with a homecoming, into the light.

River

I wanted to believe I’d be married forever, for my whole life, for all the lifetimes to come– because that made it feel like God exists: here is a perfect thing, blemished, yes, but a perfect match.

I thought marriage meant an understanding that fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, carved just so, our edges matching each other’s with uncanny precision that felt like being held.

But it is a too-small idea of the Divine as One Thing Forever.

In art and creation and dreaming, the first idea is the doorway. And the next is another doorway, and the next is the next. It doesn’t stop. There is always transformation, movement, the changing of shape and the shedding of skin.

Why tell a story that we failed because we no longer fit together? Why not, instead, see the beautiful way each of us were worn smooth by the friction of the other?

Because we were never two die-cut pieces. We were close, as rocks from a common, ancient source, or two trees growing so near they shape themselves in constant accomodation.

I want to know who I am in full sunlight, in spacious soil, but it would be repeating the old prayer to believe there won’t be grit in the seams, that the boards won’t warp, that the wind won’t shape me, shave me into my next rendition of the truth.

All the curling tendrils of wood, the dusting of sand, the ash in the wind– I– we– this– changed and changed and changed over time. I felt it, I knew it, but now I am standing at a distance, watching from a height: I thought I had one shape, an old remembering of myself and my dreams, and now it is irrevocable: I am a different animal, I am never fitting back into that old nook, which has not even existed as I have pictured it in years and years, any more than a river is the same for more than a second.

What, then, is love? What is partnership? It seems to be the bravest thing: I solemnly swear to be honest, to show myself in every shape, to the whole world, including you. To swear and to know that the truth brings both joy and tragedy, new life as well as death.

I would like to be honest. To say, yes, this will hurt, but it will hurt no matter what, eyes closed or open. And I like to see the look of recognition on your face as you feel what it is to be yourself.

It feels like standing in a river, the water pushing at my knees, intent on nothing but movement, union. It feels like keeping my footing, staying upright, to not build a dam, to not say, love me just like this and let us never, never change.

Here is the river, and here am I. If I let it, it will carry all my heavy longings downstream and away.

Most of it is Junk (it’s not just you!)

(I most often write for and work with kids. This post is not limited to Kid-Appropriate Language.)

“I like to try to apply [the] spirit of crate-digging to everyday life. The only way to find the good stuff, the special stuff, the genuine moments and the true inspiration, is to first engage with the everyday, the mundane, the seemingly useless, the things nobody else seems to care about. [To dig through the junk].”

Robert Walker, talking about DJs digging through crates and crates of shitty records

I really like the context of MOST THINGS ARE JUNK– it’s very Ecclesiastes: we’re all gonna die and life is hard, so drink and be merry with your friends once in a while and don’t worry about it so much (you can’t do anything about it anyway).

Isn’t it interesting and strange that I feel so much better when the context is IT’S ALL A MESS? Because I no longer have to worry about fucking it all up– it is crap. Nothing I do can make it more crap.

And if I only have to do better than Total Shit… Well, I can do that (at least some of the time)! That’s doable, bite-sized. I mean, I won’t always achieve that, but failing won’t actually make anything worse than it already is. I CAN’T MAKE IT WORSER, AND I CAN’T MAKE IT “GOOD” aka PERFECT. I can only maybe make a moment more bearable.

But if the Law says I Must Not Mess Shit Up because otherwise society will fall to chaos because of my dumbass– there’s no room to even begin, to even answer an email– if I answer it promptly today, I know it’s only a matter of time before I fuck up, because failure is inevitable. As with that time Jay gave me lessons in snowboarding, each success only only moves me higher up the hill and lends me more momentum when I inevitably come crashing down (thus, all successes are really evidence that it’s gonna hurt even more when I fail). (But it’s possible Jay was right in telling me to move up the Bunny Hill: that more momentum makes it easier to succeed, to get the hang of it. Maybe we should be learning how to fall better).

If EVERYONE is shit at email, at dishes, at folding their laundry, at going to bed at a reasonable time and eating enough leafy greens, if EVERYONE is wiping out all the time… then… maybe I’m not so terrible?

This is such a backwards-sounding wish, but I want to see how everyone is fucking everything up and actually no one (well, not including Michelle Obama) no one is actually better at adulting than I am… because then I could actually HELP people. I could DO stuff. Perform a little triage, staunch the bleeding, sit in hospice with someone. (And not delude myself with hopes of defeating the inevitable death that comes for them and for me).

EVERYONE IS AFRAID OF FUCKING UP ALL THE TIME. EVERYONE IS AFRAID THEY ALREADY MADE THE WRONG CHOICES.

I’m not “qualified to help them” because I’m Amazing and Advanced– I’m qualified because I care. Because I want to try. Because I’m Here. Because I’m a mirror for Beauty. And even in a junk pile, people are beautiful– IT’S LIKE A HOMEMADE PIE: NO MATTER HOW MUCH OF AN OOZING MESS IT IS, IT IS BEAUTIFUL– truly beautiful, because it is alive, it has soul, it has ATTENTION, and

“attention is love.”

Karen Maezen Miller

Wow. Living well is the same as making a pie from scratch. No matter how it turns out it’s beautiful. Something magical happens when you make a crust and fill it with fruit and bake it for an hour– things merge and it’s they transform. (I hadn’t fully articulated before how making pie is a spiritual act– it’s so redemptive BECAUSE YOU CAN’T FUCK IT UP. IT’S LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL. A bad pie has to be really, really, really impossibly bad to be Bad– I don’t think it’s even a pie anymore at that state– and even then you can still eat the filling).

So, it’s extremely important for my freedom and full expression and health and creativity to really know I am not actually able to fuck things up any worse than they are: The house is burning/falling down– why worry the paint you chose might be too “loud?”

YOUR BODY IS FALLING DOWN. IT IS MAKING ITS WAY BACK INTO THE EARTH. AS LONG AS YOU ARE NOT TRULY CRUEL TO ANYONE, YOU CANNOT FAIL MORE THAN DEATH*. You can only die once (and it’s not a punishment).

So, write a shitty book. Draw lazy illustrations. Don’t bother with an ISBN. It doesn’t matter! Doing it right isnt a real thing! Sing the wrong note– sing almost all the right notes but sing sharp. It doesn’t matter! The world is a mess. Everyone is a mess. Everyone will die. There’s no redemption because there’s no sin. There’s no fault for the chaos of being a person– this “oh, shit” feeling is not a punishment– it’s just the weird truth, like gravity.

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU FUCK UP. EVERYTHING IS “FUCKED UP.”

Congratulations: if you’re fucking things up left and right you are 1000% normal, you’re right on track.

See lots of JUNK everywhere? Congratulations again. Nothing is wrong with you— you’re just paying attention. (And attention is love: keep looking– it’s the only way to find something wonderful).

We are all 8th graders / 3rd graders / overly-tires toddlers who happen to be allowed to drive cars and use the stove and there’s no one to tell us when not to spend money or when to go to bed.

I think we’re doing pretty well. We could certainly do much worse.


*(I do believe there are some “cardinal sins,” like not recycling– that hurts my heart! This rant is about how it’s not my fault life is so fucking uncomfortable– there’s no linear correlation– so I can stop being afraid of someone blaming me for everything and kicking me out of the treehouse.)